Nonprofit: New Orleanians Clear $2.1 Million in Medical Debt
NEW ORLEANS – RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that buys and forgives bundled debt from medical providers, said that New Orleanians have raised funds to clear more than $2.1 million in medical debt for 975 residents across the city. In the next week, those affected will receive a yellow envelope in the mail advising that their debt has been paid off, with no tax consequence and an opportunity to rebuild their financial lives.
The nonprofit group shared more details in a press release.
The 975 New Orleanians all have medical debt and were identified as either making less than two times the federal poverty level, having financial hardship with five percent or more of their annual income going to out-of-pocket medical expenses, and/or they are insolvent (their debts are greater than their assets). The letter they will receive contains a message from the campaign organizers, “We believe that our city’s greatest asset is our people and the communities that we create together. We hope this debt relief will enable you and your families to recover from the financial and emotional burdens that you have been carrying, and that it inspires a sense of hope that we can achieve the impossible when we work together and for each other.”
In 2019, local volunteers worked with RIP Medical Debt to raise $19,608.77, hundreds over the initial monetary goal, to purchase this debt. With every $1 donated, over $100 worth of medical debt is completely forgiven, offering a rare opportunity for small donations to make a large, direct impact in a state with the most medical debt per capita in the country. The local volunteers raised the funds from hundreds of donors through online donations, a holiday cocktail party and school bake sales, amongst other activities. The debts forgiven range in size from $100 to a $96,663.74 debt belonging to a 47-year-old female who accrued the debt over a three-year period. For more information on the 2019 campaign, click here.
Local volunteers, Erin Potts and Sarah Forman, headed up this fundraiser last year after learning about the nonprofit and seeing the toll medical debt was taking on their community. During the effort, Erin contacted a friend who is a doctor. He and his community of heath care workers jumped in to help raise the funds. Now the tables are turned and it is the medical professionals that need support. At the start of the coronavirus crisis, the pair, working with other locals who donated to the medical debt campaign, jumped into action to help the doctor and his colleagues establish a Covid-19 testing facility at CrescentCare, a federally qualified health center on Elysian Fields that provides services on a sliding fee scale. For more information about CrescentCare, click here.
The volunteers helped source tents, cleaning supplies and even emergency lodging for health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic — which is seeing one of its worst outbreaks in New Orleans. “The work on the medical debt campaign put us in a position to be able to help the frontline medical workers when they needed it most,” said Erin Potts. “We are so grateful to everyone who has helped on both of these efforts, and can’t wait for those yellow envelopes with much needed good news to hit people’s mailboxes this week.”
As little as $1 donated to RIP can alleviate $100 of medical debt. The debt is removed from credit reports and can no longer be collected on. At this time the organization cannot locate a specific person’s medical debt, but instead buys debt which are the least likely to be paid in bundles. The organization was founded in 2014 by two former collections industry executives, Craig Antico & Jerry Ashton. To learn more visit www.ripmedicaldebt.org.